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Naming Process for New Middle School Sparks Debate Over County’s Civil Rights History

Arlington school officials will soon decide on a name for the new middle school to be built on the site of the Stratford School building in Cherrydale — but the complex history of the building, and its original name, has divided the community over which option is best.

A naming committee settled on three options for the 1,000-seat school in October, ahead of the building’s planned opening next fall. But that collection of parents and community members hasn’t been able to settle on a definitive recommendation as the School Board gears up for a vote on the matter.

The 28-member committee was instead split down the middle on two options for the building: naming it simply “Stratford Middle School,” or dubbing it “Dorothy Hamm Middle School at the Historic Stratford Building.”

The group initially considered “Legacy Middle School at the Historic Stratford Building” as an option, but that choice fell out of favor as the process advanced. The committee even floated the compromise possibility of naming the building “Stratford-Hamm Middle School,” but stopped short of recommending such an option.

The building, located at 4100 Vacation Lane, currently houses the H-B Woodlawn program, but was once the site of Stratford Junior High School. That’s believed to be the first school in Virginia to admit black students following the momentous Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, lending plenty of historic significance to the site and its name.

But the “Stratford” name itself comes from a considerably darker part of the nation’s past. The name is derived from Stratford Hall, the plantation home of Robert E. Lee and his family in Westmoreland County.

Considering that the school system is in the midst of a contentious process to strip Lee’s name from Washington-Lee High School, any association with the Confederate general has the potential to kick off a new firestorm of controversy in the county. Accordingly, some members of the naming committee championed naming the building after Dorothy Hamm, a civil rights activist who helped lead a court challenge to Arlington’s school segregation policies, leading to the eventual integration of Stratford.

“The event signified the end of massive resistance in the commonwealth of Virginia and dealt a powerful blow to the opponents of racial equality nationwide,” Ellen Smith, the incoming principal of the new middle school, wrote in a letter to the Board. “While Hamm was the community activist at the forefront of the campaign to integrate Arlington Public Schools, she was not the only community activist that was determined to integrate Arlington schools so that all students would have the opportunity to receive an equal education.”

Smith noted in her letter that the committee was determined to see “Stratford” remain part of the name somehow, in order to maintain “the clear connection between the name of the school” and its historic integration. But by including it only as addendum beyond Hamm’s name, Smith wrote that some on the committee fear it will be “dropped from regular use.”

That’s why many would much rather simply name the school “Stratford.” The county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board endorsed such an option, castigating the school system in a letter for even considering the possibility of a name other than Stratford “without any apparent prior consideration of the uniqueness and the historical and cultural significance” of the site.

A special committee convened by Superintendent Patrick Murphy to debate “Historic Interpretation at the Former Stratford Junior High School” reached a similar conclusion, noting that the school has earned inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

“That the Stratford name comes from the birthplace of Robert E. Lee is an uncomfortable part of the history, but not the most important part,” Susan Cunningham, the co-chair of that committee, wrote in an email to ARLnow. “As community historian Dr. Arnold Taylor reminds us, ‘We have to understand where we are coming from so we can appreciate where we are going’… Names matter. History matters. At Stratford, the civil rights history matters most.”

Smith urged the Board to consider the opinions of both the commission and the review board, but otherwise would not take a firm position beyond suggesting one of the two names.

The Board will discuss naming options for the first time on Thursday (Dec. 6), with a final vote set for Dec. 20.

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SunTrust Bank Branch in Cherrydale Will Close in February

SunTrust Bank will close its branch in the Safeway at 3713 Lee Hwy on Feb. 5 — its second branch closure in Arlington on that day.

The bank told clients earlier in November that their accounts will be transferred to the Lee-Old Dominion branch at 4710 Lee Highway, unless clients specify a different location, Hugh Suhr, a spokesman for SunTrust, told ARLnow.

The branch at 249 N. Glebe Road is also set to close on that day.

Clients’ accounts at the branch on Glebe Road will be transferred to either the Arlington Gateway branch at 901 N. Glebe Road or the South Arlington branch at 3108 Columbia Pike, unless clients indicate a different location, Suhr said.

In May, SunTrust, which is based in Atlanta, was hit with a massive data breach that compromised 1.5 million customer accounts.

Photo via Google Maps

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Catholic Gifts Store in Cherrydale Set to Close By Year’s End

The Joyful Spirits Gifts Catholic store in Cherrydale is now set to close by the end of the year.

Owner Meg Rydzewski wrote in a Facebook post that the shop, located at 3315 Lee Highway in the Lee Centre strip mall, will shutter permanently sometime in late December.

In the post, Rydzewski noted that the store “has faced a steep decline in sales in the last few months,” a development she attributes to the latest sexual abuse scandal to rock the Catholic Church. A Pennsylvania grand jury report released this summer revealed extensive allegations of child abuse against priests in six different Catholic dioceses, which eventually led to the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the head of the Archdiocese of Washington, among other church leaders.

“Due to ongoing news headlines, I do not expect the trend to change any time soon,” Rydzewski wrote. “Therefore, I have concluded that it is time for me to move on to a new challenge.”

Rydzewski added that she marked down all the store’s wares by 30 percent at the start of this month. By Saturday (Dec. 1), everything in the store will be 50 percent off, and, by Dec. 15, everything will be marked down by 80 percent.

Rydzewski, a published novelist who lives in Arlington, opened the store in September 2014, offering everything from books to baptism and communion gowns. She expressed her “immense gratitude” to patrons over the years in the post.

“I have also been very happy to provide religious education materials and church supplies to local parishes, saving them funds in the process,” she wrote. “Thank you, pastors, for your support! I wish I could continue beyond 2018!”

Photo via Facebook

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Morning Notes

New Elementary School at Reed Site Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved a new elementary school for up to 732 students at the Reed site, 1644 N. McKinley Road, in the Westover neighborhood. The Board voted unanimously to approve a use permit amendment for Arlington Public Schools to renovate and expand the existing Reed School/Westover Library to create a neighborhood elementary school.” [Arlington County]

Here’s Where Amazon is Coming, Exactly — Amazon will be leasing office space at three JBG Smith buildings in Crystal City: 241 18th Street S., 1800 S. Bell Street and 1770 Crystal Drive. Amazon also agreed to buy two JBG-owned land parcels in Pentagon City that are approved for development: PenPlace and the remaining portion of Metropolitan Park. [Washington Business Journal]

County Board Discusses Legislative Priorities — “A highlight of the County’s package is a call for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution that was proposed by Congress in 1972. Both the Arlington League of Women Voters, and the Arlington Civic Federation have called on the General Assembly to ratify the ERA.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Projects Win at NAIOP Awards — Nine of the 29 real estate development projects lauded at the Best of NAIOP Northern Virginia Awards on Nov. 15 were Arlington projects. [NAIOP]

Neighborhood Conservation Projects Funded — “The Arlington County Board today approved $2.9 million in Neighborhood Conservation bond funds for projects in Cherrydale and Arlington Forest… The $1.84 million Cherrydale project will improve N. Monroe Street, between 17th Street North and 19th Street North… The $1.08 million Arlington Forest project will make improvements to Edison Park.” [Arlington County]

How DIRT Chose Ballston — “DIRT co-founders @jlatulip and @jamcdaniel visited many parts of D.C. and the greater DMV area before deciding to open in Ballston. ‘We noticed very quickly that this was a special community, one that we could call home and grow with. We love the energy of the neighborhood — Ballston is a young, active community, which fits DIRT perfectly.'” [Instagram]

Verizon FiOS Outage — Verizon’s FiOS service suffered a major outage in the D.C. area yesterday. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Naming Committee Narrows List to Three Options for New Stratford Middle School

A naming committee is narrowing down its options for a moniker for the new middle school taking the place of the Stratford School building in Cherrydale.

The 1,000-seat middle school is set to open next fall, and a committee of parents and community members charged with picking a name for the building has settled on three finalists, according to an anonymous tipster and confirmed by school system spokesman Frank Bellavia. Those include:

  • Stratford Middle School
  • Dorothy Hamm Middle School at the historic Stratford building
  • Legacy Middle School at the historic Stratford building

The building, located at 4100 Vacation Lane, was once the site of Stratford Junior High School, and has long been recognized as one of the valuable historic sites in the county. The old Stratford school is believed to be the first school in Virginia to admit black students following the momentous Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Even still, there’s been some hesitancy to simply name the school “Stratford,” given the name’s association with Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Located in Westmoreland County, Stratford Hall was the plantation home of the Lee family, and any association with Lee is quite fraught in Arlington Public Schools circles at the moment. The school system is also in the process of changing the name of Washington-Lee High School to remove Lee’s name from the building, a move that’s prompted a lawsuit and fierce community debate.

“Many (including the committee responsible for commemorating these events in the new school and the director of the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington) expressed strong interest in keeping the Stratford name given the significance of the events on the site,” naming committee member Caroline Holt wrote in a letter to the community, which was provided to ARLnow. “Others expressed interest in finding a name that commemorates what the school will represent or that honors the events there without calling it Stratford (e.g., similar to Discovery Elementary which could not be named after John Glenn as he is still living).”

Hamm also has a connection to Stratford’s history with integration. As a civil rights activist, she helped lead a court challenge to Arlington’s school segregation policies, leading to the eventual integration of Stratford. Her daughter, Carmela, became one of the first African American students to attend Stratford.

Hamm also participated in a series of other court challenges to Jim Crow-era laws in Arlington, including efforts to end the segregation of county theaters and the poll tax. Bellavia says the school system is currently in the process of contacting Hamm’s family to make them aware of her inclusion as a possible honoree at Stratford.

The naming committee is set to deliver a recommendation on a name to the School Board in time for its Dec. 6 meeting, with a final vote set for Dec. 20.

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Morning Notes

Renewed HQ2 Buzz — The New York Times has published a lengthy look at Crystal City, which is being discussed as a frontrunner to land Amazon’s second headquarters. “All of the signs are pointing to Crystal City,” one of the people quoted in the article said. Separately, the Wall Street Journal reports that only some of the 20 HQ2 finalist cities — including New York City, Newark, N.J., Chicago and the D.C. area — have received second visits from Amazon officials. [New York Times, Wall Street Journal]

Former Wizard Selling Home in Arlington — Former Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat has listed his house in Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood for $1.9 million. [Real House Life of Arlington]

Upton Hill Park Caught in Complaint Crossfire — After acceding to demands of tree advocates and scrapping plans for a 17-space parking lot at Upton Hill Park, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is now facing opposition to its proposed park upgrades from nearby residents worried that the lack of additional parking will cause more vehicles to be parked in the neighborhood. [InsideNova]

New Option for Commuting to Arlington — “Sameride, a ridesharing app that allows drivers and passengers to offer and request rides, has launched a new route from Herndon, Reston and Loudoun County to Arlington and the District.” [Reston Now]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Cherrydale Has 15 Complaints About Five Points Intersection

(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) The busy “Five Points Intersection” in Cherrydale, which was just overhauled to the tune of $1.7 million, is still not very popular with some people in Cherrydale.

The neighborhood’s civic association has called a meeting with county staffers to discuss “new problems caused by the County’s reconstruction.” The association listed fifteen different issues on its website.

Construction on the project, which was the result of several years of study and discussion, wrapped up this summer, but many residents remain unhappy with the way the intersection is configured.

“Years after Cherydalers offered their input, the County went ahead with its own plans for the intersection,” the civic association’s website says. “While the project offers some improvements, on balance it seems to have created more problems than it has solved. We have asked that County staff who have decision-making authority attend our meeting, but we don’t have confirmation on who exactly from the County will be attending.”

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 3, at H-B Woodlawn (4100 Vacation Lane) starting at 7:30 p.m.

In response to the complaints and meeting request, Arlington County’s Dept. of Environmental Services issued the following statement Friday.

County staff received the list of concerns from the Cherrydale Civic Association, and held an on-site meeting with them on Sept. 17. As with any right-of-way project, we intend to conduct an after-action engineering analysis upon project completion to determine whether the design of the intersection is performing as envisioned during the planning process. This analysis involves site observations and collecting traffic data, and we optimize and make tweaks as needed based on those observations. This process will take up to three months.

We will continue to work with the Civic Association. We will need to have the analysis underway in order to make recommendations on all comments for how to move forward.

The full list of 15 community concerns is below.

1. Eastbound traffic on Old Dominion during morning rush hours backs up much more substantially than it ever used to, with the back-up extending beyond Glebe Road. We are requesting that the County prioritize its signal re-timing program for this stretch of Lee Highway/Old Dominion to alleviate this back-up.

2. The County’s signal programming decisions concerning the left turn signals for cars turning left from westbound Lee Highway onto either Quincy Street or Old LeeHighway is confusing and problematic. The left arrow signal turns red after only 7- or 8- seconds after turning green, causing cars to come to a full stop. The left arrow signal then quickly resumes as a blinking yellow left arrow for another 9- or 10-seconds, but drivers must contend with oncoming traffic from Old Lee Highway. This signaling program dramatically reduces the flow of left-turning traffic and causes cars to back-up on westbound Lee Highway, especially during the afternoon rush hours. We are requesting that the County revisit this signal timing.

3. The new left turn patterns for cars turning left from Military Road onto Lee Highway and from Quincy Street onto Old Dominion is also reducing traffic flow through the intersection. The new pattern allows far fewer left-turning cars to clear the intersection before the light turns red, and also causes a queue of left-turning cars that have already entered the intersection from Military Road to remain in the intersection after the left arrow for westbound cars on Lee Highway turns green, further reducing the number of cars that can turn left from westbound Lee Highway onto either Quincy Street or Old Lee Highway. This also poses a hazard to pedestrians in the new crosswalk on Lee Highway. We are requesting that the County restore the long-standing left-turn pattern for Quincy Street and Military Road and place signs to so indicate.

4. The signal visors on the traffic lights for westbound cars proceeding from westbound Lee Highway to Old Dominion are so restrictive that westbound cars cannot even clearly see the signals. This is causing confusion and reducing the flow of westbound traffic through the intersection.

5. Collectively, these signal problems make for angry drivers who tend to speed through the intersection after the signals have changed, which is extremely dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.

6. The new pedestrian crosswalk on the east side of the intersection near Browns Honda and Northside Vet is very hard to see for drivers turning left from Military Road onto eastbound Lee Highway and is behind the stop line for westbound Lee Highway. Drivers caught in the short left-turn signal from westbound Lee Highway tend to block the cross walk, and other westbound cars also block the crosswalk. We are requesting that the County modify many aspects of the intersection to make the crosswalk safe, including the left-turn system for cars coming from Military Road.

7. The pedestrian signal across Military Road automatically comes on almost 20 seconds after the light of westbound cars on Lee Highway turns green and only after the signal for eastbound Old Dominion turns green. We are requesting that this be changed to follow the signal timing for westbound Lee Highway.

8. The pedestrian signal across Old Lee Highway only turns on when the light is green for Military Road and Quincy Street. We are requesting that the pedestrian signal come on after the left arrow for cars traveling westbound on Lee Highway turns red but the light is green for cars traveling eastbound on Old Dominion.

9. The pedestrian signal across Quincy Street only turns on when the light is green for Old Dominion. We are requesting that the pedestrian signal also come when the light is green for cars traveling eastbound on Old Lee Highway.

10. One of the new curb ramps for the new crosswalks come up at 90 degrees from the street. This design is challenging for people on wheels (wheelchairs, strollers, bikes, scooters, etc.) and poses an unnecessary risk of falls. We are requesting that the County reinstall the curb with sloped sides, similar to what the County recently installed at Route 50 and Henderson Streets.

11. The stop-for-pedestrians placard in the middle of the street on Military Road near the Vacation Lane crosswalk is no longer on the yellow line, and now sits at least one foot into the southbound traffic lane of Military Road. This is causing cars to swerve into the newly painted bike lanes on this part of Military Road, and presenting a serious hazard to cyclists. We are requesting that the County relocate this placard ASAP.

12. We remain disappointed that the County did not eliminate the slip lane from Military Road to Old Dominion. The slip lane seems unnecessary and is not pedestrian friendly. Cars using the slip lane are stopping in the pedestrian crosswalk before turning onto Old Dominion. We are requesting that the County now eliminate the slip lane or at least ensure that there is adequate signage to ensure that cars actually yield to pedestrians and stop blocking the crosswalk.

13. Cars and work vehicles are parking/puling over in some of the new bike lanes, especially on southbound Quincy Street south of 21stStreet. This causes bikers to reenter the traffic lane. We are requesting that the County install bollards, ensure that it has adequate no-parking signs along this stretch of Quincy Street, and actively ticket & tow violators to ensure the bike lanes are actually usable for bikers.

14. Several cars turning left from southbound Pollard Street onto eastbound Lee Highway are still coming to a full stop in front of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department and waiting for the Lee Highway light to turn green. This also blocks traffic for cars proceeding north on Pollard Street onto Lee Highway. Although the County has added do-not-block intersection signs in this area, the intersection remains confusing for drivers. We are requesting that the County put the same yellow X-pattern striping in front of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department that it has placed in front of County-owned Fire Station No. 3 just up the street on Old Dominion.

15. Now that the County has re-aligned the eastbound lanes in front of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department and the 3800 block of Lee Highway (in front of Gaijin Ramin/Subway/Fit To Be Tan), visibility for drivers turning from Oakland Street is much improved, and the County’s/VDOT’s no parking bollards in front of Subway seem unnecessary. Those businesses have long struggled because of the lack of adequate “teaser” parking along Lee Highway, and we recently lost a much-loved business due to inadequate customer traffic. The County seems to allow parking closer to almost every other intersection. We are requesting that the County/VDOT reduce the no-parking zone to match up with other intersections.​

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Construction Underway on Old Dominion Sidewalk Completion

Construction is underway on an extension of the sidewalk along the south side of Old Dominion Drive to connect the Cherrydale Firehouse to N. Thomas Street.

Along with the new sidewalk, a series of storm drainage improvements are being constructed.

Construction will close the curbside travel lane along the eastbound Old Dominion Drive during work hours; Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. or until 2 p.m. on Fridays.

Undergrounding of the utilities was completed in June. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2019.

Photos via Arlington County

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Density, Development Debates Take Center Stage as Lee Highway Planning Nears

In many ways, the Lee Highway corridor is the last part of Arlington that looks like the rest of the Northern Virginia suburbs.

With high rises coming to define both the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and Crystal City, and neighborhoods along Columbia Pike becoming ever more dense, Lee Highway has remained persistently suburban in character with its procession of low-slung shopping centers and vast parking lots.

But should it stay that way as the county keeps growing? And if not, how should it change?

Those are the questions the community and county planners will try to answer as they embark on a years-long planning process for Lee Highway in the coming months.

With land-use policies last updated in 1955, Arlington officials have long seen the corridor as ripe for a new round of planning. Now, after years of back-and-forth, the county is set to hire a consulting firm and kick off the process in earnest this fall.

“The next big planning frontier is Lee Highway, from Rosslyn all the way out to East Falls Church,” said County Board member John Vihstadt. “The brewing consensus is that it’s appropriate for some increased density. We’re an urbanizing county, but we also have to be sensitive to the neighborhoods that flank Lee Highway.”

Certainly, the question of density along the highway will be among the most contentious issues to be resolved in the planning process. As Vihstadt puts it, “nobody wants to see the Clarendon-ization of Lee Highway,” considering that so many single-family homes sit directly behind the roadway.

Michelle Winters, the executive director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions and a board member for the Lee Highway Alliance, isn’t so sure about that.

The LHA, a coalition of civic associations and community groups along the corridor, helped spur the start of this new round of planning in the first place, largely out of concern that development was likely coming to the highway and needed to be managed appropriately. Winters reasons that there is room for dense, mixed-use developments along some sections of the highway — she feels it was only the “bad math” guiding the area’s current zoning that prevented the right mix of residential and commercial properties from moving to the corridor in the first place.

“Would the community want another Ballston? Maybe not,” Winters said. “But another Clarendon, especially if it looks like the less dense parts of Clarendon? Maybe.”

Natasha Alfonso-Ahmed, a principal planner on the county’s comprehensive planning team, allows that the county won’t know the best way to proceed until the process wraps up, noting that planners are “going to test every possible scenario” for the corridor.

But, as Winters suggested, Alfonso-Ahmed expects that certain “nodes” on the highway could be rezoned to allow for more density, perhaps creating more walkable communities on the otherwise car-heavy corridor.

In an initial “visioning study” in 2016, the community identified five such areas that could become home to taller buildings and mixed-use spaces — East Falls Church near the Metro station, the intersection with N. Harrison Street and N. George Mason Drive, the intersection with N. Glebe Road, the Cherrydale neighborhood near N. Quincy Street and Lyon Village near Spout Run. Alfonso-Ahmed believes the county could approach each of those “nodes” differently, allowing more density only where it makes the most sense.

“A lot of the communities in that area…want to be able to walk or bike to places like a restaurant or a coffee shop,” Alfonso-Ahmed said. “At the same time, they want to be able to get in a car and go to the supermarket or the cleaners. They’re not totally independent of the car yet, like in other parts of Arlington…The goal is to balance both.”

But what will become of the existing shopping centers on the highway? As Alfonso-Ahmed points out “it’s not like it’s a blighted corridor,” and is filled with plenty of successful small businesses that the county doesn’t want to lose.

That means Arlington officials will need to think critically about what “sort of incentives or tools will be needed for business owners to even entertain” moving, she added. Or perhaps the county could allow for the expansion of those existing commercial areas, which would then bump up into residential neighborhoods.

“Are they comfortable with the encroachment of the commercial properties?” Alfonso-Ahmed said. “If they are, how much of it are they comfortable with?”

Another possibility that intrigues Vihstadt is the expansion of affordable housing options in the area. County Board Chair Katie Cristol agrees, and suggested one “illustrative example” of a change the county might make is rezoning some areas meant for single-family homes to allow for “by-right duplex development” on the edges of neighborhoods.

But, once more, such a change would surely require extensive community engagement to allay concerns about the corridor’s changing character.

To that end, Alfonso-Ahmed expects the whole process will take three years in total, with both a large “community forum” and a smaller working group constantly weighing in on the effort and lots of chances for the community to see the county’s work.

It should all start “before the end of the year,” she said, once the county can pick a consultant to help guide the effort. Though the Board had to scale back some of the process’s funding, thanks to the county’s constrained finances, Alfonso-Ahmed says planners have everything they need to move forward, and are plenty anxious to do so.

“We really want to get it started,” she said. “We know it’s been too long.”

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Cherrydale ‘Five Points Intersection’ Work to Wrap Up Soon

An overhaul of the “Five Points Intersection” in Cherrydale should be completed soon, with night work to finish pavement markings and paving scheduled from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Monday (July 30) and continuing through Thursday (Aug. 2), weather permitting.

Work got underway last September, and changes included upgrading all traffic signal equipment, adding or modifying several lanes and improving crosswalks.

The County Board awarded a contract for the revamping last April after several years of study and discussion of the intersection, which is located at Lee Highway, Old Dominion Drive, N. Quincy Street, Military Road and N. Quebec Street.

The county advises drivers to avoid the intersection during the upcoming night work.

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Motorcycle Crash Closes Columbia Pike — Columbia Pike was closed in both directions for just over two hours this morning while police investigated a serious accident. A motorcycle reportedly crashed into a minivan between S. Frederick and Dinwiddie street, near the Arlington Mill Community Center. The motorcycle rider was seriously hurt and two people in the van were also taken to the hospital. [WJLA, Twitter]

Man Arrested for Threatening FCC Chair’s Family — A California man has been arrested and charged with sending emails that threatened to murder FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s family, over his support of the rollback of net neutrality rules. Pai has two children and lives in Arlington. Per an affidavit, one of the emails “listed the names and addresses of three preschools located in or around Arlington, Virginia, followed by the following sentence: ‘I will find your children and I will kill them.'” [Gizmodo, Washington Post]

Car Fire in Cherrydale — A car caught on fire in the garage of an apartment building in Cherrydale early this morning. No one was hurt. The cause of the fire is under investigation. [Twitter, Twitter]

Plane Evacuated on DCA Tarmac — “Passengers were forced to evacuate a United Airlines plane at Reagan National Airport on Sunday after smoke was reported in the cabin… The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said that about 1 p.m. Sunday, Houston-bound flight 6122 was taxiing for takeoff when emergency crews were called for a report of smoke in the cabin. The plane’s emergency slides were deployed, and all passengers and crew members exited ‘without incident.'” [Washington Post, Fox News]

Lee Highway Planning to Move Forward? — “It’s been delayed, delayed and delayed some more. But, Arlington’s top elected official promises, the long-awaited study of development options along the Lee Highway corridor will be up and running by the end of the year.” [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy R. Johnson

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Cherrydale’s House of Steep to Close

Despite efforts to save it over the past year, House of Steep in Cherrydale is again preparing to close its doors.

The business at 3800 Lee Highway is part tea house and part day spa, letting customers “enjoy a carefully blended pot of tea and a therapeutic foot bath with reflexology” at the same time. It was set to close at the end of 2016 when a long-time customer stepped in, bought it and revived it.

Since then the new owner, Patrick Vaughan, has taken steps to adding in-store events and applying for a license to serve wine. In an email to customers today, published below, Vaughan said it was not enough to make the business work. It is set to close on Saturday, June 23.

Dear Steepers,

What an honor it has been to be a part of the House of Steep community; unfortunately, I’m saddened to announce we will be closing our doors on June 23, 2018.

When I acquired House of Steep in January 2017, my goal was to keep alive this beloved local business and continue to provide a positive community gathering space to relax and enjoy the company of friends and family. While this chapter in the House of Steep saga may seem short-lived, it will forever hold a special place in my heart.

In realizing the on-going financial challenges of the business, we pushed for appropriate changes to our lease agreement, which were temporarily granted by the landlord. However, an agreement on permanent changes could not be attained and effective at the end of the month our lease will be terminated. I want to extend my deepest appreciation for our incredible TEAM who made every possible effort to sustain the business for as long as possible.

My sincerest thank you to you, our many wonderful customers who I have had the opportunity to meet and share time with during the past 18 months. Your support and appreciation for Steep made this an amazing experience that I will always look back on fondly.

We will do our best to honor any outstanding gift cards in the coming weeks and will maintain an inventory on our website while supplies last. Whatever the future holds, keep us in your thoughts, treat yourselves with love and always take time to relax with family and friends. Steep on!

With Love,
Patrick and the TEAm

Photo via House of Steep

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Arlington Agenda: June 4-10

Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

Tuesday, June 5

Urban Agriculture: Herbs
Westover Library (788 N. McKinley Road)
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.

Attendees of this workshop will learn how to nurture a kitchen garden that will give them easy access to fresh herbs. Those interested may RSVP here. Attendance is on a first come, first served basis.

Wednesday, June 6

Defining Our Digital Destiny: The Future of Work in Arlington*
Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street)
Time: 6-8 p.m.

A panel that includes representatives from Virginia Tech and the county government will discuss how technology will affect the future of the Arlington workforce. Attendees will have the opportunity to network before the panel begins at 6:30.

Brunch and Business: The Successful Journey of an Immigrant Entrepreneur
Arlington Economic Development (1100 N. Glebe Road)
Time: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Three Arlington entrepreneurs will discuss their paths from arriving in the United States to starting their own businesses. Admission is free, but registration is required.

Thursday, June 7

YEA! Trade Show
Ballston Center (1000 N. Glebe Road)
Time: 5-7 p.m.

The 2018 class of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy will present their new start-up businesses. Goods and services developed by YEA! students will be available for purchase.

Hip Hop Thursday Cycle Class at Ryde in Clarendon
Ryde Cycle (1025 N. Fillmore Street)
Time: 7:45-8:15 p.m.

Join certified Ryde Cycle instructors for a high-intensity cardio workout featuring rhythm-based choreography and a candle-lit studio. First time “ryders” can take advantage of a buy one get one free offer.

Friday, June 8

PRIDE Buttons
Connection Crystal City Library (2117 Crystal Plaza Arcade)
Time: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Supplies will be provided to craft unique PRIDE buttons in celebration of Pride Month. RSVP for an event reminder. Attendance is first come, first served.

Supreme Fridays
G.O.A.T. Sports Bar (3028 Wilson Blvd)
Time: 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

The first Supreme Friday at The G.O.A.T. will feature two floors of DJs and music, video games, HD TVs and more. Bar-goers can register here to skip the line.

Saturday, June 9

Unveiling of Historic Civil Rights Plaque*
Hair Vogue (3815 Lee Highway)
Time: 10:30-10:45 a.m.

A plaque honoring participants in the first day of lunch-counter protests in northern Virginia on June 9, 1960 will be placed at 3815 Lee Highway — formerly the location of the Cherrydale Drug Fair, where the sit-in occurred.

Anniversary Celebration: Cherrydale at 125
Cherrydale Branch Library (2190 Military Road)
Time: 11 a.m.

Cherrydale will commemorate the 1959 desegregation of Stratford Junior High, the 1960 Cherrydale Drug Fair sit-in and the contributions of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department at the Pentagon on 9/11.

Sunday, June 10

The Arlington Triathlon*
Washington-Lee Aquatic Center (1301 N. Stafford Street)
Time: 8-10:30 a.m.

This event invites competitors aged 7-15 to participate in a run-bike-swim race to benefit the Arlington Triathlon Club. Registration information may be found online.

The Armed Forces Cycling Classic
Crystal City area (2121 Crystal Drive)
Time: 7 a.m.-3 p.m.

Competitive cyclists will compete for the Crystal Cup and cycling enthusiasts of all levels can participate in other events on the second day of the Armed Forces Cycling Classic, following Saturday’s Clarendon Cup races.

Bark in the Park*
James Hunter Park (1229 N. Herndon Street)
Time: 3-6 p.m.

Bring your dog for free live music and Smoking Kow barbecue at the Clarendon dog park. Event is presented by Clarendon Animal Care and Clarendon Alliance.

Rosé Garden
Ten at Clarendon (3110 10th Street N.)
3-6 p.m.

Free rosé from Screwtop Wine Bar and light hors d’oeuvres will be served in the Ten at Clarendon courtyard. RSVP on Facebook to attend.

*Denotes featured (sponsored) event

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Cherrydale Day Care Dispute Exposes Deeper County Board Rift

A neighborhood dispute over a Cherrydale daycare facility laid bare some deeper disagreements about the proper role of the Arlington County Board at the body’s Tuesday (May 22) meeting.

The Dalbir family day care, located at a home on the 3900 block of 17th Street N., was asking the Board for a permit to make what might seem like a minor change — instead of supervising five children at the home, its owners wanted to care for up to nine.

Yet that request touched off fierce debate on the Board, which only approved the permit on a 3-2 vote. Board members Erik Gutshall and John Vihstadt cast the dissenting votes.

The dispute largely centered around the day care facility’s impact on parking and traffic on narrow 17th Street N., just off N. Quincy Street. Some neighbors complained to the Board that the day care’s customers and employees have already caused real problems in the area, even before adding capacity for more kids.

The Cherrydale Citizens Association opposed the permit, though the day care — which has been in business for more than two decades, according to the county staff report — is not technically located within the civic association’s boundaries.

Gutshall and Vihstadt argued that those complaints demonstrated that the day care’s owners hadn’t done enough to work with their neighbors, and they supported deferring a vote on the permit. But the other Board members strongly disagreed that it was up to the Board to step into a dispute among just a handful of households.

“This is an issue for the neighbors to resolve among themselves,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol. “Even very reasonable people can find themselves in disputes between neighbors. It happens across the county on a manner of issues, often related to parking and traffic. But that’s not the role of this Board.”

Vihstadt did acknowledge that it’s “difficult and awkward for us up here to be referees” on such parochial issues, particularly as the county looks to expand access to childcare. Cristol, in particular, has focused on the issue, though the Board has faced pushback from neighbors of other day care centers in recent months.

Gutshall and Vihstadt both urged their colleagues to take the complaints of people in the neighborhood seriously, noting that the Board previously deferred a vote on the permit in April to urge the owners to work with the community more closely to resolve these problems. (Between April and May the day care center made concessions that placated the first neighbor to contact the Board, but other households have since weighed in with their own complaints.)

“To add more density will only cause more trouble on an already troubled street,” Kathy Lash, who rents out a house next to the day care, told the Board.

Vihstadt also pointed to a letter from the Cherrydale Citizens Association echoing those concerns and lamenting that the day care’s owners have “a history of unpleasant interactions with affected residents concerning the operation of their day care.”

“Many different residents have reported that the provider’s family members have repeatedly yelled at, and occasionally cursed at, neighbors in response to their concerns about the operation of the business,” wrote Jim Todd, the civic association’s president.

Manbir Nahal, the son of the day care’s owners, told the Board that he had never heard such concerns from the civic association, and offered to meet with the group. Board member Christian Dorsey even argued that county officials shouldn’t be making decisions based on secondhand accounts of neighborhood arguments.

“They were just reporting what they heard,” Dorsey said. “We are not equipped to use that as a finding of fact with which to judge who has, or has not, been a good neighbor. It’s really beyond the point of what our job is.”

Gutshall pushed back forcefully on that point, arguing that it is “absolutely within the purview of this Board to examine whether the proposed use is consistent with good land use practices in a residential zoning district.” He added that he felt it was “incumbent on the applicant” to reach out to the civic association and assuage their concerns before earning the permit.

(Nahal said he exchanged emails with the civic association president but was unaware of the importance of meeting with the group in person.)

A majority of the Board disagreed that there were grounds to again delay approval of the day care’s request and a motion to defer for another month was voted down 3-2. Cristol, however, did urge the day care’s owners to meet with neighbors about their complaints.

As the county continues to grow in population, Board members acknowledged that this is likely far from the last time they’ll hear about such problems.

“This is just part of Arlington being really crowded,” said Board member Libby Garvey.

Photo and map via Google Maps

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Civic Groups Plan Meeting on Potential Cherrydale Senior Living Center

A new senior living center could be coming to Cherrydale on a property along Lee Highway.

McLean-based Artis Senior Living is considering building a new facility on the north side of Lee Highway near the intersection with N. Taylor Street. Representatives intend to bring some development ideas to an April 26 community meeting convened by several civic associations.

The Lee Highway Alliance will play host to that gathering at its headquarters (4620 Lee Highway) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday (April 26), and the Cherrydale and Waverly Hills Civic Associations will help coordinate the discussion.

Sandra Chesrown, president of the Lee Highway Alliance and vice president of the Waverly Hills Civic Association, says Artis has yet to divulge many details of what the new facility might look like so it can first hear the community’s concerns.

Indeed, county real estate records show that Artis, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has yet to even buy the 2.7-acre property.

A message sent out on the Cherrydale Civic Association listserv suggested that Artis is considering a “seven-story, 184-room assisted living residence” on the property.

“The facility would allow Cherrydalers and their family members to age right in our neighborhood,” the message read. “It would have a sizable workforce. There might be some issues with parking. We certainly want it to be welcome addition to the neighborhood.”

Made up of five separate parcels of land along the 4300 block of Lee Highway, the property was owned for decades by Louis Courembis, records show. Courembis transferred those parcels to William Murray, a local estate attorney, in September 2015, and the county hasn’t recorded any other sale of the land. Murray did not respond to a request for comment.

The property is currently home to a single-family house and several other structures. All of the land is valued quite highly — county assessments pegged one parcel as worth nearly $3.5 million in 2018, while the other four are assessed from $687,000 to $880,000.

Photo via Google Maps

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